He did his job.
Those four words echoed through the halls of the Anaheim Police Department in the days after K-9 Officer Bruno was shot in the face while tracking an armed suspect.
“If Bruno wasn’t there, there’s no doubt in my mind that somebody would’ve gotten hurt,” said Officer R.J. Young, his handler.
Bruno’s job involves sniffing out narcotics and bad guys and putting his life on the line to protect his colleagues.
On March 23, Bruno did his job with remarkable valor.
After being shot, the 7-year-old German shepherd only yelped once – even though the round shattered his jaw, damaged his lung and lodged less than an inch from his heart.
The unfolding drama of Bruno’s heroism and dramatic recovery reverberated across the world, drawing hundreds of thousands of supportive messages from Australia, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and across the U.S.
As we continue to root for Bruno’s full and speedy recovery, let’s not forget what led him to Mayfair Avenue.
A parolee who had been released from prison 10 days earlier had fired at probation officers.
As they always do, police officers raced toward the danger.
Contemplate what it must be like for the husbands, wives, family and friends of police officers, especially on days when an armed ex-con fires at officers.
“Obviously, I’m devastated over what happened to Bruno,” Rachel Young, R.J.’s wife, told the Register. “But I’m so happy and relieved that my husband came home that day because he might not have.”
The suspect was killed when officers returned fire. This wasn’t the suspect’s first brush with law enforcement.
“After he was tackled during an arrest in 2011, he told a deputy in county jail that he struggled with the officer to get away, and had ‘even tried to reach for his gun,’” the Register reported. “When the deputy asked why he tried to grab the gun, (the suspect) said, ‘Because if I did get the gun I would have killed him,’ according to court records.”
Gang violence is down in Anaheim – in part because of innovative police programs aimed at encouraging impressionable young people to make good decisions.
But being a police officer is still a dangerous job that requires significant courage – as Bruno continues to demonstrate.
* This column appeared Tuesday on the Orange County Register’s website and is expected to be published in Thursday’s edition of the Anaheim Bulletin.